Connect with us

Gear Reviews

Skjold Drakkar Catacomb 6 String Bass Review

Published

on

Skjold Drakkar Catacomb 6 String Bass Review

Skjold Drakkar Catacomb 6 String Bass Review

  • 34” Scale length
  • Obeche (African whitewood) chambered core
  • Figured walnut top and back
  • 1 piece quarter sawn bolt-on maple neck
  • Pau Ferro fingerboard
  • Evo Gold narrow fret wire
  • Skjold integrated playing ramp
  • Skjold/Armstrong dual coil pickups
  • Skjold/East Uni-Pre preamp.
  • Skjold/Hipshot proprietary bridge with graph tech string saddles
  • Hisphot tuners

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

There is a particular kind of satisfaction that comes with playing a bass that is just plain exceptional. More often than not, if you look hard enough, you can find something about an instrument that could have been done better. Between my part-time job reviewing basses, and my own twisted obsession with seeking out the worlds most skilled bass luthiers, I’ve had the pleasure of playing some truly wonderful basses. Through all this, I’ve grown to deeply respect the rare and small group of bass luthiers who are able to consistently produce great instruments. By great I mean: instruments that are exceptionally well designed and thought out, perfectly constructed with the best materials, which nail their target tonal goal, and play almost better than imaginable. When Pete Skjold stopped by my house to deliver my new bass on his way to a local expo, he shared with me the 5-6 basses he had on hand for the show. I was stunned (not only by how my instrument turned out, but) by how incredible each and every bass was, in its own right. No matter the bass, it seemed like Pete just nailed what that instrument was born to do. Like a master sculptor who sees a slab of material and naturally understands how the medium wants to be worked, Pete seems to have a sixth sense about how the pieces fit together toward the desired outcome. Its no wonder he’s called “the wood whisperer”. His deep command of how to combine elements toward a desired end result is frighteningly sharp. Every one of his basses I picked up was better than the last! I remember looking at him after playing 4 or 5 different Skjolds and blurting out “So… you’re kind of a freak, eh?” I meant it in a good way!

Many people familiar with Skjold’s work will recognize his distinctive shapes. The clear vision of Pete’s design goals is evident in all of his models. Skjold recently unveiled some new models, several of which are revamps of his previous designs, having evolved naturally over the decades that Skjold has been building. The Drakkar model evolved from the Damian Erskine signature Whaleback, Pete’s flagship single cutaway bass. The Drakkar includes several aesthetic and functional tweaks, including a somewhat more rounded and streamlined appearance than the Whaleback. For my tastes, the visual refinements are spot on, and the result is an extremely pleasing looking and feeling instrument.

Besides the new Drakkar body shape, this instrument features Pete’s heavily chambered and extra thick body, appropriately designated as a “Catacomb” model. Pete wanted to design a semi-hollow bass that imparts desirable acoustic properties such as “air”, “depth” and “bloom” to the sound, but doesn’t lose the low mid punch and focus that can sometimes result from semi-hollow construction. This is a tough balancing act, as many builders will attest to, and the Catacomb truly does nail the best of both worlds. Having played a handful of high end semi-hollow/chambered instruments, this bass has the focus and authoritative push of a solid body instrument, but has an unmistakable bloom and depth to the notes that really add dimension to the sound.  As Damian Erskine puts it: My Skjold Catacomb was an attempt by Pete and myself to develop a bass that was 100% even across it’s entire range, had a bit more ‘wood’ in the sound when necessary but also still gets growly and burpy with the best of them. I don’t know how he did it, but he nailed it. It’s the only 6 string I’ve ever loved the PASSIVE sound of. I bypassed the preamp in the bass and only play it passively because it just sounds perfect to me.”

Construction-wise, there is literally nothing on this bass that is out of place or could even remotely be considered a flaw.   The neck is slim and buttery smooth, with nicely rounded edges and impeccably dressed frets, and the whole bass sports a satin finish that lets you feel the wood grain under your fingers.   The gorgeous walnut top and back is slightly enhanced and glows with a rich warmth. The one-piece maple neck is rock solid and feels lovely under the fingers. The Pau Ferro fingerboard is a lovely specimen, and the fretwork is, literally, second to none.

I ordered this bass with Pete’s custom Kent Armstrong dual coil pickups, and the East/Skjold pre, which is based on the new John East Uni-Pre preamp.   The firm warmth and solid low end of the pickups was very well complemented by the powerful and versatile preamp. In addition to active bass and treble boost, a semi parametric midrange stack, volume, blend and passive tone, the East preamp features some impressive controllability via settings in the control cavity. There, you can adjust the individual pickup volumes, the frequency for the treble knob, and the bass “window”. Two thumbwheels allow you to tailor the center frequency and width of the bass boost/cut. You can also select whether you want a flat tonal response, or the classic upper-midrange curve that many familiar with the popular East Retro/Deluxe will recognize.   All of this is pure gold, if you ask me. No two basses are alike in their frequency response, not to mention that bassists have a wide range of preferences for how they like their onboard eq to work. The East offers the ability to customize your preamp to your tastes, your instruments’ inherent tone, or any other variable. Having owned a bass with this preamp in the past, I an enamored by the ability to tailor my onboard EQ so that it performs JUST how I like it to.

Two dual coil pickups are located under the pickup “ramp” that Skjold sets into the body. The integrated Skjold ramp is an elegant and highly functional solution for those who like playing ramps. Rather than two pickups with a slab of wood in between, the Skjold ramp offers a uniform playing surface with no edges or contours to navigate, and makes for a very satisfying experience for guys like me, who have adapted their technique to using ramps.  Skjold offers ramps made from exotic woods (to match the top, for example), but I ordered the standard version, made from a cast resin, which is nicely textured, feels solid, and has the Skjold logo laser etched in a very classy and subtle way.

Gigging is of course the great litmus test for an instrument, and I always like to see how a bass will perform ‘when the rubber meets the road’. Any sonic weirdness or tonal imbalances usually become pretty obvious when stuck in a busy mix on a loud stage. The thing that immediately impressed me about the Drakkar (besides how shockingly even it was from top to bottom) was how big and authoritative it sounds. It speaks with a huge, deep voice that really commands the bandstand. Band mates were quick to say that the Skjold sounded decidedly more assertive and full than other basses I’ve played. The Drakkar’s sonic authority sound made it easier to ‘play the band’: keeping everyone on point, driving the rhythm, informing the melody, and generally shaping the direction of the music.

The Drakkar came strung with a medium gauge set of Skjold Hybrid strings, which employ a combination of steel inner wrap with nickel outer wrap, resulting in a taut, focused sound with fantastic clarity and fundamental. I requested the bass with low action, and what I got was what I like to call “stupid low”. I could barely play the darn thing, and it had zero fret buzz! (Who is this guy?) Raising the saddles a hair resulted in low action with fantastic playability and tone. In an effort to bring out the woody and complex midrange, I tried a set of Skjold light gauge flat wound strings as well as a set of GHS Pressurewounds. The Flats offered just that: woody complexity and strong fundamental (and were surprisingly articulate) but I couldn’t quite get used to the flatwound feel on this particular bass. The GHS were a great middle ground, with their compressed outer windings. These hit the mark nicely, taming the highs and upper mids, while offering wonderfully smooth tone and feel. I also experimented with a set of Skjold Tension Balanced strings, which brought out a lot more clarity and detail in the upper mids and high end. I loved how each set really brought out different aspects of the Drakkars complexity, but at the end of the day, went back to the trusty Skjold Hybrids as the best overall matchup. Go figure, Pete nailed it again.

I ordered this bass from Pete to use as my main instrument, as I play six string most of the time. I am the first to admit that I’m very picky about basses, especially six strings. It’s pretty tough to make a bass that excels in its entire frequency range, and that was one desire that Pete and I discussed at length. We had many conversations about tone, feel, and aesthetics, and when the bass arrived, I was blown away by how well the instrument exceeded my expectations (which were admittedly very high). Whatever I thought this bass was going to be, I was shocked by how well it suited me, and how precisely he nailed the various and hard to describe attributes I had in mind for this instrument.

Skjold’s customers are really the best testament to the quality of his work. If you ask a Skjold owner to tell you about their instrument, they invariably gush over how great the bass plays and sounds. In fact, I know of more than one connoisseur/collector of the world’s finest basses, who have said that even though they own a variety of killer instruments, their Skjolds are the ones they would grab, god forbid, in the event of a disaster. If that’s not a true endorsement, I don’t know what is.

Having played a wide handful of his basses, it’s abundantly obvious that Skjold ‘gets’ bass building on another level. He understands not only how wood sounds and behaves, but also how each ingredient in the recipe acts in relation to the whole ‘dish’. He knows how to not only craft a bass that is rock solid, reliable, and sensitive, but one that is specifically tailored to his customers requests. These days, it may not be that hard find a luthier to build you a custom instrument, but finding one with the intuitive knowledge and expertise to consistently produce flawless, perfectly balanced basses is still a very rare and special thing.

Find out more about Skjold Design Guitars by visiting website www.skjolddesign.com.

 

Gear Reviews

Gear Review: Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Bass

Published

on

Gear Review: Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Bass

Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Bass Review…

Throughout the evolution of music, bass players have sought tools to sculpt and enhance their sonic landscapes, and one indispensable ally in this pursuit has been compression. Origin Effects, a name synonymous with premium audio craftsmanship, introduces the Cali76 Compact Bass Compressor, a pedal that pays homage to the legacy of compression and brings forth a new chapter in bass sonic mastery.

As we delve into the world of the Cali76 Compact Bass Compressor, we’ll explore how Origin Effects seamlessly weaves together the heritage of compression and contemporary bass demands, promising a pedal that not only honors the past but propels your bass playing into the future. Join us on this sonic expedition as we dissect the nuances of the Cali76 Compact and uncover the secrets it holds for bass players seeking the perfect blend of vintage warmth and modern versatility.

For Starters, the Cali76 is a studio-grade FET compressor pedal, based on the classic Urei 1176, but with some features optimized for bass guitar. For those of you who are not familiar with it, a FET (Field Effect Transistor) compressor is essentially a solid-state tube compressor emulation that allows for fast and precise control over the attack and the release parameters; allows for extreme compression ratios; and finally adds the typical 1176 color and character to the sound.

Together with the common controls we see in most compressor pedals – Ratio, Attack/Release, input (just like the original 1176, the threshold in this pedal is fixed), and output (makeup gain). The Cali76 offers two more controls dedicated to us bass players.

A Dry control – This allows us to mix in our dry, uncompressed signal to the pedal output. This is great for when we want to add back some of our playing dynamics to the compressed sound or for when you want some volume back in situations where the compression starts taking away the volume.

A High Pass Filter control – Low frequencies on a bass guitar signal normally overwhelm compressors. This high pass filter allows the compressor to only react to higher frequencies, which helps preserve the natural dynamics of our playing while keeping the low end intact.

Metering on this pedal can be a bit hard to get used to at first. There’s a single LED light on the pedal, that not only serves as an On/Off light, but it’s also our meter. It glows red when no compression is applied and orange for active compression. The brighter the light, the greater the amount of gain reduction. Yellow signifies that the gain reduction reached 27dB and maximum reduction occurs around 38 dB.

In practical terms, it’s all about working with the input and the LED to find the sweet spot (turn the input to zero, start playing and slowly increase the input level until you start seeing the LED glowing orange, which means there’s reduction going on).

With 6 highly interactive knob controls, this pedal implies some degree of compressor knowledge and also some amount of tweaking and experimentation to find the perfect settings. The good news is that it is very hard to make this pedal sound bad…

It can go from very subtle compression settings to very extreme, and it can do everything in between. Also, the team at Origin has been kind enough to add a couple of sample settings in the manual to get players started and to help us understand better how the pedal works.

Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Bass

Dynamic Control is a setting that provides natural compression, balancing dynamics between various playing techniques. It is a subtle compression that will work almost out of the box almost all the time. Having a medium setting for the High Pass Filter ensures an honest translation of the lower string dynamics.

Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Bass

Parallel compression is a popular studio technique, where both compressed and natural signals are blended. We get the sound and feel of hard compression while retaining the natural playing dynamics.

Origin Effects Cali76 Compact Bass

Percussive, lively & Fat is a setting that uses a slower attack time to accentuate the start of any note. Then using a fast release allows the compressor to recover between notes so that the phrases sound more percussive. Ideal for slapping and other percussive techniques.

Finally, I would like to mention the classic 1176 tonal coloration. It’s not a secret that engineers all around would sometimes use the 1176 compressor, without applying any compression, just to get the tonal coloration into the instrument sound.

And the Cali76 compressor is no different, it has such a rich, warm, and full coloration that’s super pleasing to the ear and makes you want to have it ON all the time. So be aware, that if you want a transparent compressor, this pedal is not for you!

All in all, it is easy to understand why this pedal became a favorite of so many bass players around the world. The Cali76 Compact stands as a testament to the meticulous craftsmanship and thoughtful engineering that Origin Effects is renowned for. It seamlessly navigates through the rich history of compression, offering bass players a gateway to the soulful resonance of the past while empowering them to sculpt a contemporary sonic future.

Whether you’re a seasoned bass maestro or a budding virtuoso, the Cali76 Compact invites you to embark on a sonic journey where every note is held in a delicate balance between tradition and innovation. As we bid farewell to our exploration, we do so with the realization that the Cali76 Compact is more than just a pedal; it’s a sonic companion that elevates the artistry of bass playing

For more information, visit online at origineffects.com

Continue Reading

Gear Reviews

Spector NS Ethos HP 4 Bass Review

Published

on

Spector NS Ethos HP 4 Bass Review

Spector NS Ethos HP 4 Bass Review…

Not long ago, I did a review of the Spector NS Dimension HP 5 Bass and I have just been given the honor and privilege of reviewing the Spector NS Ethos HP 4 Bass. I have to say, another great bass from Spector that is hard to put down! While there are some similarities between both basses, there are also some noticeable differences which is why I believe having both is essential to any bass arsenal.

Spector, widely used by many rock and metal bassists like Ian Hill, Alex Webster, Colin Edwin, Doug Wimbish, and many more, just to name a few, has a long-standing in these genres. Well, that’s about to change! The bass I used for the review, didn’t see any of those genres, matter of fact, I used it on a few classic country gigs and at church too! However, when at home in the studio, I let the funk out. The NS Ethos HP 4 Bass is an all-around great bass for any genre and will not disappoint.

Let’s get into the specs about the bass, and here we will find the differences between the HP 5 Bass and the HP 4.

Forget that one is a 5 string, while the other is a 4, while that is a difference, that’s not one that I feel needs to be noted as both models are available as 4 and 5 strings. The Spector NS Ethos HP 4 Bass has a 34” scale, 24 fret, 3 piece maple neck through construction with solid alder wings, ebony fingerboard along with centered and side dots and the 12th fret Spector logo inlay with a brass nut.

While the pickups are different as the NS Dimension HP 5 Bass uses the EMG 45DC and the NS Ethos HP 4 Bass sports the EMG 35DC pickups, they are the same pickup configurations, the difference being, one for 4 string, the other for 5 string. The electronics are the same, consisting of a Darkglass Tone Capsule preamp which consists of +-12dB @70Hz for Bass, +-12dB @500Hz for Mids, and +-12dB @2.8kHz for Hi Mids. Controls for Spector NS Dimension HP 5 Bass consist of Master Volume, Blend, Bass, Mid, and Hi Mid controls. The electronics are powered by a 9-volt battery.

The bridge is a Hi-Mass locking bridge with intonation screws and the tuners are sealed die-cast. All hardware is black. Same as the Spector NS Dimension HP 5 Bass, the HP 4 Bass is available in 4 different finishes, White Sparkle Gloss, Gunmetal Gloss, Plum Crazy Gloss & Black Gloss. The bass also comes with a very nice and well-padded gig bag.

Check out the Spector NS Ethos HP 4 Bass at a Spector Music Retailer today near you or visit online at spectorbass.com/product/ns-ethos-hp-4/

Continue Reading

Gear Reviews

Review: Italia Leather Straps

Published

on

Review: Italia Leather Straps

Italia Leather Straps…

Whenever I get a new bass, I like to get a new strap to christen it and I also like to find one that is “color coordinated” to my new instrument. I recently had a 6-string fretless bass created by a local luthier named Frank Brocklehurst, which started my search for a new strap.

There are a few points that I always look for when searching for a new strap. 

1-Comfort 
2-Width
3-Great color
4-Price

My most recent quest put me in touch with “Italia Leather Straps.” Italia has been in business in California for about 20 years and has been selling factory direct for the past 18 years.

When you order your strap it begins its “made to order” build process and after shipping more than 50,000 straps they certainly have it well in hand!

To answer my 4 questions regarding comfort, Italia uses some of the most comfortable and luxurious leather in a wide variety of colors. I was able to match almost perfectly the color of my bass and the color of the leather.

You can order it in either a 2.5” or 4” width as well as a standard and long model for tall players. I prefer the 4” for all of my basses. 

I received my strap and I must tell you, the leather was soft, supple, and truly comfortable when I attached it to my bass.

I must commend Italia Leather Straps for their attention to detail and beautiful selection of leather. I would say that when you go looking for a new strap, these guys should be on your shortlist.

Call or visit Italia Leather Straps online:
831-324-4277
www.italiastraps.com

Continue Reading

Bass Videos

Review: The Fuchs FBT-700 Bass Amps

Published

on

Review: The Fuchs FBT-300 and FBT-700 Bass Amps

Fuchs FBT-700 Bass Amps…

Much like our original ODS amps were initially inspired by the legendary Dumble amps, the new Fuchs FBS-1 bass amps have found their inspiration from the iconic Walter Woods © bass amps, but with Andy’s own enhancements.

Andy tapped his years of experience as a working musician, as well as servicing and tweaking guitar and bass amps for many famous clients as diverse as Carlos Santana through jammers like Jimmy Herring, including jazz legends like Dave Stryker for over 40 years as inspiration for our new bass amps. Fuchs’ 20-year list of reviews and endorsers is truly impressive to say the least.

Not unlike the iconic Walter Woods © amps the FBS-300 and FBS-700 amps are designed for maximum power at minimal size and weight. For years, the rare and coveted Woods amps have built a following amongst industry professionals. They were literally the first switch mode class-D style lightweight bass amps ever. Due to Walter being reclusive and now retired, these amps found their way to Andy’s shop to be repaired. While servicing them Andy was able to reverse engineer the preamp and power supply. Mated to a modern lightweight ICE power digital power module we have produced an amp that Woods owners agree, is equal (if not better) than their predecessors.

The FBS-1 bass amps (and our FBT tube bass amps) share identical panels and chassis and are available in 300 and 700-watt models, they feature a solid-state preamp inspired by the infamous Walter Woods © amps, but with improvements like a steep-slope subsonic filter and a DI output using high-speed audiophile op amps and a regulated power supply. The DI output is electrically balanced pre/post switch, ground lift, DI Phase, and a global mute switch.

Small and light, (downright diminutive) at less than 5-lbs and 12 x 3 x 9, they are loud and clean. Want some dirt? Raise the input gain and lower the master volume. Want total clean, lower the input gain and raise the master. They are super easy to operate, and the FBS-1  amps will easily fit in a gig bag, run ice-cold, and feature a well-thought-out, simple configuration for the working musician. A Fuchs gig bag designed for all models is coming soon.

These amps feature an input gain control allowing both passive and active bass use, Baxandall (shelving eq) high and low controls, a parametric rotary midrange control with level and frequency control and an output master volume. With the midrange pot in the ‘0’ position the circuit is flat. In this mode the bass and treble pots emulate the classic Woods and B-15 style amps we know and love. Use the mid circuit for boost and cut of up to 20 db at a fully adjustable frequency.

All models use the industry-standard Ice power modules, which are known for their rock-solid reliability and excellent cool-running, audio performance. These amps feature a buffered patch loop between the preamp and power amp. All amps offer worldwide automatic line voltage selection. Wherever you are, they automatically set their own line voltage. All amps are CE and RoHs compliant.

FBT-300 6 lbs 12 x 3 x 9 chassis. FBT-700 6 lbs 12 x 3 x 9 chassis.

FBT-300: 300W at 1% THD+N, 4Ohm • 260W at 0.1% THD+N, 4Ohm • 380W at 10% THD+N, 4Ohm • 450W at 1% THD+N, 2.7Ohm (Approximately ½ half this value at 8-ohms).

For more information, visit online at fuchsaudiotechnology.com

Continue Reading

Bass Videos

Review: Ampeg V12 Bass Amp & VB 115 Cab

Published

on

Review: Ampeg V12 Bass Amp & VB 115 Cab

A video review of the Ampeg V12 Bass Amp & VB-115 Cab from the new Venture Series.

For more on the Venture series, visit online at ampeg.com

Continue Reading

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Facebook

Trending